VIRGINIA WATER, England — John Paramor, the mustachioed European tour rules official whose career spanned six decades, has died after a bout with cancer. He was 67.
The European tour confirmed the death of Paramor, who retired in 2020 as chief referee. He had officiated at dozens of major championships over the years and was recognizable on every circuit in the world.
“One of the all-time best rules officials,” Tiger Woods said Friday. “John was around when I first turned pro and had been a staple obviously on the European tour and all the World Golf Championships.”
In a statement Friday, the European tour said it was “today deeply saddened by the passing of John Paramor, one of the most respected rules officials in the history of golf and a hugely popular figure across the entire tour family.”
The European Tour group is today deeply saddened by the passing of John Paramor.
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) February 17, 2023
The tour planned a moment of silence Saturday in the third round of tournaments in Thailand and South Africa. The PGA Tour was working on a similar tribute. Paramor was a large presence in all of golf’s biggest events.
“I said in 2020 that ‘legend’ is a word used too often in sport but in terms of golf, and the administration of the rules of our sport, it perfectly describes John Paramor,” said Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European tour. “Quite simply, he was a leader in his field, the guru of referees, and someone who commanded the absolute respect of the players and of his peers.”
Some of his most famous rulings involved Seve Ballesteros. Paramor once said he gave Ballesteros a favorable ruling that might not have applied to others because the Spaniard was capable of so much creativity. But he also could draw the line.
During one of his more famous incidents, in 1994 at the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama, Ballesteros was under a tree and felt he should get relief because of a small hole the Spaniard claimed was made by a burrowing animal.
“One, that was questionable. And two, I couldn’t find any evidence to suggest what he was claiming. He had to prove his case,” Paramor recalled years later. “Anyway, there was a small hole within the big hole. When I went to stick my finger in the small hole to see what was down there, Seve put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Be careful, it might bite.’
“I almost started to chuckle,” Paramor said. “He could be intimidating, but I had to put that to the back of my mind.”
Relief was denied.
Paramor joined the European tour as an administrator in April 1976, having previously spent a year working as a caddie for Peter Butler.
He went on to become the tour’s chief referee in 1989 and became a central figure in changes to the Rules of Golf over the years.
“Even before I came on tour, John was a beloved character,” Rory McIlroy said. “He was always a friendly face to see out on tour and I always loved my conversations with him. Yeah, it’s a sad day, but he’ll be very fondly remembered by the whole golf community.”